By Andrea Cordle
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently announced that the state would demolish 599 blighted and vacant structures throughout Ohio.
One of the properties that will be torn down is the former Westland Mall shopping center on the westside of Columbus.
“By ridding our state of eyesores that are hindering development and impacting property values, we can revitalize our communities and attract new investments, businesses, jobs, and housing opportunities,” said DeWine. “Many of our communities have truly transformative ideas for these properties, and I’m pleased that we’re able to help remove these barriers to development.”
Westland Mall opened in the late 1960s as an open-aired shopping center. It was enclosed in the early 1980s and featured anchor stores like Lazarus (which later became Macy’s), Sears, and JC Penney. Eventually, JC Penney left to relocate at Tuttle Mall, and many retail outlets followed. Sears was the last anchor store remaining and most businesses were gone by 2012.
Although I see the need for it, the news of the demolition brought back many memories of my time spent at Westland Mall.
When I was a kid, my mom would take my sister and I out to eat at the restaurant that was located on the upper floor of Lazarus. After dinner, my mom would shop, my sister would hide in the clothes racks in the store, and I would have to find her. I remember my mom taking my sister and I to get our pictures taken with Santa or with the Easter bunny. When I was maybe 7 or 8, I got my ears pierced at Claire’s.
When I was a teenager, Westland Mall became the place to hang out with my friends. (I’m sure the other shoppers and retail workers loved to have teens loitering around all day!) My mom would drop me off at the mall then give me a few hours to just run around. I would get those soft pretzel sticks from Hot Sam’s and dip them in the cheese sauce, then I would get a chocolate chip or M&M cookie from Original Cookie. (Not healthy – I know!)
I remember going into Wilson’s Leather and always wanting those cool leather jackets. I finally persuaded my parents to buy me one. I got a green suede jacket that I ruined almost immediately because I was not aware at the time that the material was not waterproof.
Once, I went shopping with my dad. This was something monumental as my dad never went shopping. He was going to the mall to buy my mom a birthday gift and he let me tag along. We were in the Limited, which was a big deal for me. At that age, I thought the Limited was a very high-end outlet, way out of my price range. (Of course, everything was out of my price range as I did not make any money at the age of 14.) As my dad was looking for a gift for my mom, he told me I could pick out one item for myself. I was so excited! I was going to get something to wear from the Limited! I picked out this pea soup green, angora haired sweater. When I wore the sweater the following day, I quickly realized that I did not like angora and green was a terrible color on me. I felt like it was such a wasted opportunity. I tried to wear the sweater a few more times, with an undershirt that would help the itching, but parts inevitably would touch my skin, causing irritation.
I had my first police experience at Westland Mall. I was just hanging out with a group of friends when a police officer walked by. Trying to show off, I said, “I smell bacon. Does anyone else smell bacon?” (This was when the movie “Wayne’s World” was popular and I loved that film.) I thought the interaction would be similar to the one in the movie. I was wrong. The officer did not appreciate the comment and he promptly put me in my place.
I’m sure most people from the westside and southwest part of the city have many memories of Westland Mall as I do. I hope the property will be redeveloped so generations to come can make new memories.
Westland Mall is scheduled to be demolished this spring or summer.
Andrea Cordle is editor of the Westside and Grove City Messenger.